Photo by Joshua Rappeneker/FlickrCC
Say you walk into a sushi bar in America hungry for an authentic Japanese meal and you're faced with a choice. There's an empty seat in front of a chef who looks Japanese. There's another empty seat in front of a chef who has blond hair and freckles. Which seat would you choose? What if the choice was between a chef who looks Japanese and one who is African-American?
I'm hoping you'll comment on this question, because I'm curious to hear your answers. Are you a diehard devotee of Japanese-only sushi chefs, or are you open to a chef of any ethnicity? Have you had an experience that might have changed your mind?
Let me explain why I'm asking, and why I produced an article and slideshow for The Atlantic documenting the growing phenomenon of American sushi chefs who aren't Asian. My interest in this question goes back to the three years I lived in Japan.
In Japan, I came to love the communal bar or counter that dominated most sushi restaurants and neighborhood eateries, where the pleasure of company and good conversation--with the chef, and among different groups of customers--enhanced the pleasure of the food. It was almost like having instant friends to go with your meal. The chef's job wasn't just to feed us but to entertain us and encourage us to try new ingredients and dishes.